We have been able to establish that the risk that the Foss barrier would fail was known. It was understood through successive reports over many years that the capacity of the pumps at the barrier could not match the challenges of climate change and the volume of water coming down the River Foss. That has now been established as fact through the Environment Agency and reports from the local authority, but questions remain. Why was the barrier not upgraded sooner when that was known for more than 12 years? Why were there only two mechanisms to operate the pump and why have no steps been taken to raise the level of the

6 Jan 2016 : Column 389

electrics in the nearly 30 years since the barrier was established? York needs answers to those question and I trust that we will hear them later.

Today, I also want to focus on the additional help needed now by families and businesses who have experienced devastation this Christmas. As I have gone door to door, I have seen the damage and smelt the rancid waters, but £500 barely touches the initial costs that families face now. Many will not be able to claim the £5,000, but the £500 for people without insurance barely buys them anything. Many people in my constituency have only the clothes that they stand up in, and £500 will not go far enough. They are too poor to buy insurance. What additional resources will the Minister make available to the poorest people in my community? To do nothing is not acceptable, and they cannot rely on charity.

The Traveller community in my constituency lost everything, including their homes. The rescue operation did not happen among that community, and I want to know what additional support will be provided for Travellers. Victims of poverty and flooding should have a Government who will not abandon them in their time of need or leave them to rely on charity. They need a Government who will take action. I also want to know how the Government will support businesses more. I want a guarantee that the Government will seek to prevent businesses from going into administration, as many in my constituency are likely to do. Finally, the local authority plans in York did not work well on the ground, and I would like an external audit of those plans to ensure that they will be efficient and effective when the need arises.

6.30 pm

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): Just a few weeks ago, on 15 December 2015, we spoke in this Chamber about the devastating effects of Storm Desmond in Cumbria. Sadly, we are now here again debating the aftermath of Storms Eva and Frank and the devastation that has been wrought in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Scotland, along with many other areas in the north. During that debate on Storm Desmond, I welcomed the announcement of a national flood resilience review to assess our infrastructure, with particular reference to electricity substations. I mentioned that because many areas of Lancaster, including the hospitals, many homes and businesses and the university, suffered from long power cuts caused by unforeseen flood damage at a substation in Lancaster. I made the case for electricity substations to be better protected from flooding, to avoid disruption to our healthcare, education and business institutions.

Unfortunately, on Boxing day, my constituency was battered by Storm Eva. Roads were flooded, people’s homes were damaged and a 20-foot sinkhole opened up on the M62, causing massive disruption to travellers on Boxing day. Rochdale town centre was also hit extremely badly by the unprecedented rainfall. One major issue affecting my constituency was a prolonged loss of power, again caused by flood damage to an electricity substation. Around 20,000 homes in the borough of Rochdale lost power, and Electricity North West worked day and night to try to restore services. Again, this has emphasised

6 Jan 2016 : Column 390

the importance of adequate defences for our power stations and of a properly funded flood defence policy, with the north getting its fair share.

I would like to use my final minute to pay tribute to our emergency services, whose response over the holiday period was incredible. Two days before Christmas, I visited Heywood firefighters to wish them well for the festive season, not quite anticipating what was in store for them. Heywood fire station is one of only two Greater Manchester fire service stations that has a water rescue unit and firefighters who are fully trained in its use. The water rescue unit was deployed to help with the widespread flooding in areas of Greater Manchester, and its response was magnificent. However, those same firefighters are extremely concerned about further cuts to their services. They are worried that there may come a point when they simply do not have the workforce to be able to deploy their specialist vehicles. It is all very well having the latest kit, but without sufficient numbers of firefighters to operate it, that kit becomes redundant. Finally, it will come as no surprise to the Secretary of State that I again call for the creation of a statutory duty on the fire and rescue service to respond to flooding.

6.33 pm

Tom Elliott (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) (UUP): The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) spoke earlier of a fatality in his constituency two years ago. I had a fatality in my constituency last month, when Mr Ivan Vaughan’s car was trapped in a flood. It appears that he got out of the car and was washed away. Sadly, he died.

Questions have been asked today about whether dredging works or not. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) said that the flood prevention programme following the devastating flooding in Somerset in 2013-14 was working and that dredging was proving effective. I know that the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) indicated earlier that he was less enthusiastic about dredging, but certainly in my constituency in Northern Ireland we need further dredging, and I have been campaigning for that in Lough Erne. I know the Secretary of State and the Minister will say that that is a devolved issue, and I accept that, but the Electricity Supply Board and the Republic of Ireland Government have a role, and therefore so, too, do the UK Government; this is a four-party agreement. There are aspects that this Government need to look at.

We have had a dispute here today about finances, and about who is right and who is wrong, some of it between the Opposition and the Government, and some of it between the Labour party and the Scottish National party. I do not want to get into that argument, but I do know that there is a serious difference between the compensation or the money available to homeowners who have been affected in Northern Ireland compared with the money available here in England. Here, it is up to £5,000 for businesses and homeowners, whereas in Northern Ireland it is only up to £1,000, and that is limited to homeowners.

I asked yesterday about the Barnett consequentials. I know that the Secretary of State said that it was a devolved issue for Northern Ireland, but if additional money is going into flood defences and repairs in England, surely the devolved institutions of Northern Ireland,

6 Jan 2016 : Column 391

Scotland and Wales are entitled to the Barnett consequentials of that. I would like a specific answer on that aspect, just to see whether that can boost the support and help that we and the devolved institutions receive.

6.36 pm

Richard Burgon (Leeds East) (Lab): More than 2,000 homes and up to 400 businesses in Leeds were hit by the floods, but what a fantastic, heroic job the emergency services, public sector workers and local volunteers did in Leeds, as they did around the country. Locally, we still await estimates of the financial cost of the flooding, but we know that in human terms it has hit people and businesses hard. We need to ensure that Leeds residents and businesses are properly protected, and we need an urgent review to put in place changes that prevent it from happening again.

Five years ago, the Environment Agency estimated that 3,000 properties in Leeds were at risk and that a major flood of the River Aire could cause £500 million of damage in Leeds city centre alone. Five years ago, given the estimates of the scale of the potential cost of flooding in Leeds, it proposed a £180 million flood defence plan, designed to deliver protection against a one-in-200-year flood event—the Government rejected it. Why? It was because of spending cuts. My Leeds East predecessor, George Mudie, raised concerns about the risk of flooding at that time—half a decade ago—as did Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for development, who condemned the Government as “short-sighted”.

We are now halfway through the construction of the smaller Leeds flood alleviation scheme, which is designed to deliver flood protection against a one-in-75-year event. That itself will now undoubtedly need repair work, and the Government review, working with Leeds City Council, must consider the following: whether the scheme, if it had been completed, would have been sufficient to prevent flooding in the city centre; whether it would have helped in any way in Kirkstall; whether it will be sufficient to protect against future floods; and whether that one-in-75-year figure is still appropriate and, if not, what further funding is needed for improved defences.

I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) is seeking a meeting for Leeds MPs and council representatives with the Minister, and I hope we can have that soon. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister three times today whether he would commit to funding fully plans to give the whole of Leeds the protection that we need, and three times the Prime Minister failed to give a clear answer. People in Leeds and people across the country deserve better.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) rose—

Mr Speaker: Very briefly, Mr Neil Parish.

6.39 pm

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): May I thank the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister and the floods Minister for all the work they have done on the flooding in the north of England? We now need a fundamental review on floods, as they are occurring more often. In the past, there may have been a flood

6 Jan 2016 : Column 392

every 25 years or 50 years, but now there is one every five years or 10 years. The frequency may be down to climate change or it could be part of a pattern, but something is fundamentally wrong.

We must ensure that internal drainage boards have more powers, so that more can be done locally and that more dredging can be done. We must also learn the lessons from Somerset, where large pumps were brought in from the Netherlands. If we need pumps, let us move them around the country and ensure that we can pump out all the water. Rivers close to the sea and inland rivers are very flat and silty and tend to need dredging. My hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) was quite right to say that chalk streams and rivers do not need the same amount of dredging.

We must also look at land management. At the moment, farmers are given compensation only when there is a loss of earnings. We need to look at that land and say, “Why don’t you farm that land in a way that allows you to have an income from it?” I am talking about planting trees or retaining water in the peat. Farmers might then view managing flood protection in a much more positive way. If we can put all these things in place, we could slow down the amount of flooding that is happening, but if we have 13 inches of rain in 36 hours, it is very difficult for any flood protection scheme to protect everybody.

What the people of Cumbria were absolutely certain about today when they attended an Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee was that they have all worked so well together and that their communities and their emergency services have performed well. They were delighted that Ministers had turned out to support their local communities. It is essential that we work together to change what is happening and to put enough money in place.

I plead with the Chancellor to view flood protection as very much part of our infrastructure. If we are to build infrastructure, we need to protect it from inland floods and the sea. We need look only at the Netherlands to see that if we want to protect the country, we need sea and coastal protection. These floods have been a wake-up call.

My very final point is that if we look at the amount of spending on flood protection, we will see that it began very slowly during the last Labour Government, but then it started to rain and the flood money went up, and the same happened under the previous Government. Now we are seeing a bit of tit for tat between the Government and the Opposition, but what this Government need to do is put together a package that will ensure that we have the right funds in place to protect us.

6.42 pm

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): We have heard already that David Rooke, deputy chief executive of the Environment Agency, recently called for a “complete rethink” in our approach to flooding. I could not agree more. More than an entire month’s rainfall fell in a single day on one Saturday in early December, resulting in many of the main rivers across Cumbria exceeding their highest levels ever recorded. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) said, the Government appear to have been caught short by the changing weather.

6 Jan 2016 : Column 393

The extensive flooding that followed at the end of December and into the new year across Cumbria as well as in Lancashire, Yorkshire, north-east England and throughout much of Scotland confirmed that building higher walls will not, on its own, provide the protection that our towns and cities need. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people in the north of the country and in Scotland who have seen with their own eyes the evidence that the Government have not done enough. We should not overlook how sick they are of the Government’s excuses. Let us not forget that areas of Cumbria assessed as having a one-in-100 years’ chance of such flooding have experienced these events three times in the past decade.

Similarly, people are tired of the frantic efforts to persuade the public that spending is greater now than it was under the previous coalition and Labour Governments that went before them. As my hon friend highlighted, the Government are constantly chirping about their £2.3 billion of capital spending over six years, but their attempts to defend their record over the previous Parliament will not wash. Analysis from the National Audit Office has confirmed that, between 2010 and 2011 and 2013 and 2014, capital funding fell by 18% in cash terms. Were it not for the emergency funding after the floods hit, total funding would have fallen by 10% in real terms during the previous Parliament.

In 2007, the Labour Government announced an ambitious target of £800 million per year in flood defence spending by 2011, and spending actually increased by 27% between 2007 and 2008 and 2009 and 2010, reaching £633 million, with £766 million budgeted for in 2010-11. What was the Prime Minister’s first action on flood defences when he came to power in 2010? Yes, he handed out a £96 million cut in the budget, leaving the Government lagging behind thereafter and struggling to keep pace. According to the House of Commons Library, subsequent years’ spending was hundreds of millions below what the Environment Agency said it needed, even when the extra millions in response to the tragic floods in Somerset are considered. The Secretary of State said earlier that others have contributed to make up the difference. I ask the Minister who has made these contributions and how much have they contributed to the overall budget.

While money was no object for the Prime Minister a couple of years ago, it does seem to be an object now. As we have heard from hon. Friends, on three separate occasions today he refused to confirm that he will fund the full Leeds flood defence scheme. The hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) told us that that project had been over-engineered, but we still need action, and we need it now. The Prime Minister has no excuse for the failure to act on the upgrading of the Foss barrier several years ago, yet he seemed pleased with himself today when he said that the work is now being tendered—little consolation for those who saw the waters invade their homes.

The Government are even less enthusiastic about revealing precisely how much of the capital spending is simply maintaining existing flood defences at their current level without providing increased protection. As the Committee on Climate Change has identified and the events of recent weeks have confirmed, the impacts of a

6 Jan 2016 : Column 394

changing climate will see defences that might otherwise provide protection against a one-in-100-year flood provide a much lower level of protection, risking their being overtopped more frequently.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken on a number of different issues. There has been much praise for volunteers, local authority workers, the military, and the Environment Agency. A great example came from my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch), who talked about the pop-up charity shop providing goods but also raising cash for victims. All this is Britain at its best.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) talked about the small communities affected, because many of them feel abandoned. I am looking forward to my meeting with the Minister, I believe next week, to talk about the proposals to help smaller communities. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) talked about the River Aire and spoke of businesses ruined. Sometimes we forget that jobs are lost as a direct result of these things, with machinery ruined and insurance protection not really in existence.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) spoke of a field under flood where planning permission has already been granted for more housing development. I wonder what mitigation is in place for the houses that are going to be built there and on the other floodplains where housing has permission to be built. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) also spoke about floodplain development, as well as insurance, which was covered by other Members.

I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Mr Reed) talk about the threat to health services in Cumbria—we know how remote places there can be. He also mentioned the potential damage to the oncoming tourist season. It is not just people’s holidays that are going to be lost, but people’s livelihoods as well.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) referred to Members saying how great the response had been, and it was, but the spending on that response has been counted as maintenance whereas in fact it was repairing damage.

As I argued in the House during the debate on the Housing and Planning Bill only yesterday, we need measures aimed at prevention as well as at defence. The havoc and devastation that have engulfed vast swathes of the northern regions is testament to that, underlining the need for in-built resilience when new developments are planned and constructed. The Minister for Housing and Planning said that sufficient legislation is in place, yet we continue to see planning permissions for floodplain development and no real requirement on developers to build into their schemes the measures needed in the immediate and longer term.

The commitment from the Secretary of State to revisit the modelling used by the Environment Agency and to review its fitness for purpose off the back of these repeated unprecedented weather events, as well as to a national flood resilience review that will update worst-case-scenario planning, is welcome, if not overdue. What are the timescales for this review? When we can we expect some outcomes and some news?

Elizabeth Truss: This summer.

6 Jan 2016 : Column 395

Alex Cunningham: Well, this summer is better than next year.

I offer this challenge: what happened to the innovative thinking of the previous Labour Government who left office in 2010 and who had accepted the recommendations of the Pitt review that would have seen much greater resilience of this kind? Let us take, for instance, the catchment management plans within the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. Despite giving the Environment Agency responsibility for building an understanding of current and future flooding risk, and informing policies for managing this risk within the catchment area, those plans were axed post-2010 as the agency’s funding was cut. The Secretary of State spoke about this, and I hope the Minister will tell us a little more. What thought has been given to changing the incentives for farmers and landowners in river catchment areas, particularly in the upper reaches of river catchments, which play a key role in determining flood risk?

I need to wind up now. It is time to recognise that our rivers, streams and water courses are natural infrastructure assets, and the Treasury and others have to treat them in the same way as motorways, trunk roads and other infrastructure if we are going to build resilience into the future.

6.50 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rory Stewart): May I begin by paying tribute to the debate, which has been very detailed and serious and has properly reflected the fact that this has been a very unusual and very complex situation? The hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) talked about the unprecedented nature of the rainfall. As has been said repeatedly, every kind of record has been broken, including those for rainfall in 24 and 48 hours and that for rainfall in a month.

As right hon. and hon. Members across the House have emphasised, it has been the most extraordinary and horrendous experience for people. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) for highlighting the impact on the Traveller community in York Central, who are among thousands of people affected—we now know that more than 12,000 separate homes were affected by this extraordinary experience.

The emergency services have been astonishing. The hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) has paid tribute to the fire and rescue service. We should also pay tribute to the police gold commanders and the sergeants and policemen standing on the streets, in the rain, day in, day out, securing the safety of communities, and to the Army, from the company sergeant-major standing in the streets of Appleby and the 100 men clearing out houses, to the commanding officer of the Light Dragoons working his way up and down the Calder valley. We also note the work of the Environment Agency and people such as Adrian and Phil, who struggled with the problems with electricity to the Foss barrier, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) has said, the actions of councils up and down the country. The council response has been fantastic

The hon. Members for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk) and for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) paid tribute to the Muslim communities, which in their different way have contributed, as have the Sikh and Hindu communities. In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for

6 Jan 2016 : Column 396

Carlisle (John Stevenson), I saw church representatives out with hot cross buns at 4.30 in the morning. We also note the sea cadets standing up to their waists in rain water, as well as mountain rescue, the boats and Team Rubicon, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams). Moreover, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) has pointed out, we also note the thousands of anonymous members of the public who got out of their cars and then continued on their journeys.

I also want to take a small moment to pay tribute to Members of Parliament themselves. On that first evening, I saw the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) out on the streets of Cockermouth. I saw the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) working with the Methodist Church, and my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle working from dawn to dusk. I also saw the hon. Member for York Central and my hon. Friends the Members for Selby and Ainsty and for Shipley, as well as colleagues in St Michael’s and at Hebden Bridge—and they are just the Members of Parliament I happened to see as I worked my way around the country.

I also pay tribute to the Flood Forecasting Centre and the work done by the Met Office, which gave us the important warning. That was also central for our colleagues in the devolved Administrations. The floods in 1953-54 killed 450 people, and one of the reasons we have been more fortunate this time is that we have the warning systems in place.

In the short time available to me, I want to touch on some of the issues raised by right hon. and hon. Members in relation to recovery. Elland bridge was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker) and the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch). I reassure them that we are working very hard, particularly on the telecoms challenges in relation to that bridge. My hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty raised the issue of Tadcaster bridge. I reassure him that we have been able to get Balfour Beatty to work for the next three days. We have located a temporary footbridge, which will be put in place.

The hon. Member for Copeland (Mr Reed) raised the issue of the A591. For the first time ever, Highways England has agreed to take over, from beginning to end, the project management of a county council road, and it will deliver that in the quickest time possible.

The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) mentioned the challenges with regard to electricity. My hon. Friends the Members for Carlisle and for Calder Valley raised the challenges for schools. I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Education will be there to deal with those issues herself. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley mentioned household grants and the hon. Member for Rochdale raised some of the challenges for businesses. I am pleased that the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, who is in her place, is addressing that problem directly. The hon. Member for Workington raised the issues in respect of insurance, which we are dealing with along with the Association of British Insurers.

I want to set all the other issues in context in the very limited time available. Whether, like the many right hon. and hon. Members from Leeds, we are talking about specific defences; fairness in other parts of the country, as was raised by the hon. Members for Dumfries and

6 Jan 2016 : Column 397

Galloway (Richard Arkless), for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Stuart Blair Donaldson) and for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Tom Elliott) and my hon. Friends the Members for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), for Newark (Robert Jenrick) and for Newbury (Richard Benyon); the unintended consequences raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy); building on floodplains, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) and the hon. Member for Workington; the challenges of culverts, which were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley; the disagreements about dredging, which were evident in the conflict between my hon. Friends the Members for Ribble Valley and for Newbury; farmland, which was raised by the hon. Member for Workington; upstream alleviation, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury; forestry, which was raised by the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts); or the overall strategy, which has been pushed hard by the hon. Member for Copeland, we come again and again to the importance of having an independent objective judgment by the Flood Forecasting Centre and the Environment Agency that is respected by this House.

These decisions cannot be made through party politics. The resources must be allocated on the basis of flood risk, the number of households that will be protected, the position of those households on the deprivation index, the businesses that will be affected, the agriculture that will be affected, and the impacts on productivity, infrastructure and electricity. Those issues of cost and complexity will be central to the debate.

Barry Gardiner: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Rory Stewart: I am afraid that I only have a minute and a half to go, but I am happy to continue the discussion with well-informed Members like the hon. Gentleman.

Perhaps a hundred different arguments have been raised in the House today, but to come to a close, there seem to be four main conclusions to be drawn from this debate. The first is that in an emergency situation, we must, above all, act decisively. We must think big and we must think early. It was very important that the Environment Agency moved 85% of its assets up immediately. The Cobra meeting was held on 23 December, even when there was uncertainty about the floods, to deal with an issue that would come up on Boxing day. The military deployed immediately.

The second thing to be taken from the debate is the importance of understanding and compassion. This can become a technocratic debate about numbers, but it is really about the horror that is experienced in individual households. Our ability to listen to those households will be central to our ability to go forward.

The third lesson from this debate is one of humility. We are dealing with extraordinary issues of climate and uncertainty. We are breaking records in a way that has never been seen before in this country. There needs to be a joint cross-party response that is not limited to this House, but that reaches out to the very best scientists, commentators, experts and members of the Environment Agency who are available to deal with the challenge.

6 Jan 2016 : Column 398

Finally, this debate is about localism. It is about local knowledge. Every scheme and every response needs to respond to local knowledge. In one community it might be about dredging, in another it might be about a pump, in another community it will be about the clearing of trees and in another it will be about upland storage. We need to look at what we are doing with forestry and what we are doing with peatland restoration. We need to understand that some schemes take 25 or 50 years to succeed, but that they should be undertaken nevertheless. As the Secretary of State said, we need to start the 25-year planning now.

Whatever our other disagreements, this country has responded very well to the emergency nature of the floods. There has been a good emergency response in Scotland, a good emergency response in Wales, a good emergency response in Northern Ireland and, I believe, a good emergency response in England. The only way in which we can go forward is with the utmost seriousness—seriousness about science, seriousness about evidence and seriousness about the formulas we use to allocate the funding in a way that is fair to the entire United Kingdom. If we get that determination correct, I believe that we can move forward with the humility and attention to local detail that will allow us to deal with perhaps one of the most serious crises of our generation.

Question put,

The House divided:

Ayes 216, Noes 281.

Division No. 158]


6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Barron, rh Kevin

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Butler, Dawn

Byrne, rh Liam

Cadbury, Ruth

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, rh Jeremy

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cryer, John

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Elliott, Tom

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Farron, Tim

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Gardiner, Barry

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harpham, Harry

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Hayman, Sue

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hillier, Meg

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Kinahan, Danny

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lamb, rh Norman

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian C.

Lynch, Holly

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McKinnell, Catherine

McMahon, Jim

Meale, Sir Alan

Miliband, rh Edward

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mulholland, Greg

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Onn, Melanie

Osamor, Kate

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Shah, Naz

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, rh Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

West, Catherine

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Dame Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Vicky Foxcroft


Angela Rayner


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Sir Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Dinenage, Caroline

Donelan, Michelle

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hall, Luke

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Parish, Neil

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pow, Rebecca

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Tellers for the Noes:

Jackie Doyle-Price


Guy Opperman

Question accordingly negatived.

6 Jan 2016 : Column 399

6 Jan 2016 : Column 400

6 Jan 2016 : Column 401

6 Jan 2016 : Column 402

Business without Debate

Welsh Grand committee



(1) the matter of the Draft Wales Bill be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for its consideration;

(2) the Committee shall meet at Westminster on Wednesday 3 February at 9.30am and 2.00pm to consider the matter referred to it under paragraph (1) above; and

(3) the Chair shall interrupt proceedings at the afternoon sitting not later than two hours after their commencement at that sitting.

Question agreed to.


Compensation for Negligent Medical Treatment

7.13 pm

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): This petition declares that healthcare professionals under investigation for negligence should not be able to work in either the NHS or the private sector until disciplinary procedures have concluded satisfactorily. More than 1,000 women underwent inappropriate breast cancer surgery, and while many NHS patients have already been compensated, those treated in the private sector have been caught up in protracted litigation during which time some have sadly passed away.

The petition would require every insurance company to provide affordable cover for every aspect of healthcare professionals’ work, including where it is found to be negligent, and those under investigation would be suspended until the complaint had been fully resolved.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that private healthcare patients have less access to adequate redress and compensation following negligent treatment in comparison to NHS patients; further that insurance companies can withdraw cover from healthcare professionals who are alleged to have breached the terms of the insurance policy; and further that healthcare professionals under investigation for negligence should not be able to work in either the NHS or the private sector until the disciplinary proceedings have concluded to the satisfaction of the General Medical Council and patient or patients concerned and, in case of fatalities, the patients’ families.

The petitioners therefore ask the House of Commons to legislate to require insurance companies to provide affordable cover for every aspect of healthcare professionals’ work including in cases where the work was found to be negligent, and for all healthcare professionals under investigation for negligence to be suspended until the complaint has been fully resolved.

And the petitioners remain, etc.]


6 Jan 2016 : Column 403

Park and Ride Scheme on Bathampton Meadows

7.14 pm

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): The petition reads as follows:

The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that Bathampton Meadows are an area of cultural and historical importance; further that the proposed park and ride scheme on Bathampton Meadows will negatively affect the local landscape; further that the plans will negatively impact local tourism; and further than an online petition on this matter was signed by over 6,000 petitioners.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges Bath and North East Somerset Council to withdraw plans to build a park and ride scheme on Bathampton Meadows.

And the petitioners remain, etc.


Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. A couple of hours ago I was informed by email that HSBC was proposing to close branches in Ruabon and in Chirk, which is in my constituency. We have, of course, seen many such bank closures, especially since the Government changed their policy of working with banks to keep the last branch in every community open. Can you tell me, Mr Speaker, whether any Minister has proposed to come to the House to discuss that change in policy?

Mr Speaker: I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Lady, but I must advise her that no Minister has given notice to me of an intention to make a statement to the House about the matter. However, the hon. Lady is herself a notably dexterous and versatile Member who is very familiar with the arsenal of weapons that is available to her so that she can raise matters of concern, one of which weapons she has just deployed by means of an ingenious but entirely bogus point of order. She will therefore know that she can continue to pursue the matter through questions, and possibly through debates. I have a keen hunch that she will pursue the course of action that I have recommended.

6 Jan 2016 : Column 404

Vauxhall Bus Station

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Julian Smith.)

7.17 pm

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I am pleased to have this opportunity to bring to the attention of the House and the Minister the anger that is felt by my constituents, and by many other people in a much wider area, about the plans of Transport for London and Lambeth Council to demolish Vauxhall bus station. It is also an opportunity for me to express publicly our concern about the series of misleading statements about the matter that are currently on the TfL website, and, indeed, to raise widely the view of, I believe, thousands of people that TfL consultations are clever exercises which do not give the public an opportunity to answer the real question, but are designed to give the answer that is wanted by TfL.

In London, 2014 was celebrated as a year of the bus, but now, in 2016, there seems to have been a cultural change in both City Hall and TfL from championing bus passengers to scrapping bus lanes. We are seeing more and more buses being forced into general traffic lanes, slower journey times, frequencies being cut, and, now, the incredible decision to demolish Vauxhall bus station.

Just 15 years ago, Arup Associates won a public competition to build a new bus station within the gyratory. The commissioning statement from TfL said that the purpose was

“to create a coherent and efficient interchange for bus, rail and Underground users…to promote the use of public transport”

and to be

“a landmark structure to enhance the local environment and amenity.”

Less than 12 years ago, the bus station was completed at a cost of £4.5 million, and was opened by Ken Livingstone. It was immediately hailed by architects and public transport users as inspired. Jonathan Glancey, The Guardian’s architectural correspondent, said that it was “a trumpet blast”, but that what made it

“so special is the fact that it is localised… the Vauxhall bus station does show what can be done as public transport in London is taken increasingly seriously… it points to a new ambition, however crudely expressed by politicians, to make London’s public transport system among the finest in the world.”

That was 12 years ago.

By the way, the ski-slope roof is not just a gesture. It is studded with photovoltaic cells which, angled towards the sun, help to generate electricity for the station’s lighting.

At the time, those who had used the previous dreadful facilities expressed their delight. Peter Hendy, then in charge of TfL, said then that

“The Vauxhall Cross interchange has been an ambitious project for TfL. For passengers at Vauxhall Cross, changing between bus, rail and Tube had been difficult for a long time.”

The view was that following the changes the interchange would

“provide easier access to, and transfer between, bus, Tube and rail services”.

I want to mention some key facts. Vauxhall is the second busiest interchange in London, after Victoria.

6 Jan 2016 : Column 405

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): I have a home just the other side of Vauxhall bus station from Westminster. Twelve years ago, when it was being built, there was a big hole in the road, and people who lived at the other end of Wandsworth road were unable to escape south London. If TfL is to knock the bus station down, I fear that again people across south-west and southern London will be cut off from the centre of London for months.

Kate Hoey: I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. That is another important reason why the whole scheme is so ridiculous.

Vauxhall is the second busiest interchange in London, after Victoria. It is used by 2,000 buses per day. Nearly one in four of London’s buses use the station. It serves 14 bus routes, 11 of which are daytime routes. Three routes offer a 24-hour service. The three night routes are used frequently by many of the LGBT community who visit the clubs in that area. Every day, 712 Victoria line tube trains and 739 mainline trains go through Vauxhall. It really is a hub. Forty-five thousand commuters go through it each day. The largest group by far are bus users, who include the most vulnerable—the old, disabled people, parents with young children—all of whom make disproportionate use of buses because of the ease of access and frequent stops. Many change from bus to bus at Vauxhall. Others change from the tube or the train. Getting the bus interchange right is crucial to keeping traffic moving across a wide area of central and south London.

So where does the proposal to demolish the bus station come from? It did not originate from TfL. It was first made public in Lambeth Council’s draft supplementary planning document way back in 2012. That talked about looking at replacing the bus station with

“a series of relocated bus stops.”

In November 2013, in the local plan, the council stated that it wanted to work

“towards the removal of the gyratory. At the outset this will involve remodelling the bus station so that the canopy is removed and bus stops and stands are relocated to allow for the introduction of the high street”.

That intention was repeated in presentation time after time. In 2014, there were initial consultations. Now, finally, TfL is consulting on a scheme that looks at getting rid of the gyratory. However, it claims that to do that the bus station must be removed. Artists’ impressions, but no detailed designs, of the plans for the bus station show a series of bus stops around two or more high-density, multi-storey commercial developments.

Interestingly, the Secretary of State’s inspector, reporting on the Lambeth local plan submission in 2015, concluded that it should be reworded so that it stated that removal of the gyratory “may” be necessary, not “will” be necessary. Although we understand that Lambeth has accepted the inspector’s changes, that has not been published on the website. Lambeth is obviously trying to disregard that change of emphasis.

A majority of people, including local residents, agree that replacing the one-way roads—the gyratory—at Vauxhall is desirable. But that does not mean they want the bus station to go. They have never been asked whether they want it to go. A local community group, Our Vauxhall, which includes local architects and traffic engineers as well as residents, has produced an ambitious plan for the area which goes much further than the one

6 Jan 2016 : Column 406

put forward by Lambeth and TfL. Its plan has been enthusiastically backed by local residents, including at well-attended public meetings that heard repeated demands to keep the bus station.

TfL obviously wants to rubbish Our Vauxhall’s plan. TfL put all sorts of wrong things on the website about it. It has tried to pretend that it has modelled the scheme. We know it has not. It has stated that it would not work, without giving any reasons. It has just done what it assumes it can get away with—that is, say what it wants to say and people will have to go along with it.

On 19 December, TfL published a statement about the scheme claiming to have done a comprehensive review. That contained some blatantly false and misleading statements that are now subject to a formal complaint. We have raised the matter with the Transport Commissioner and Leon Daniels. I am confident that in a straight competition Our Vauxhall’s plans would outperform TfL’s on a range of measures, including overall road safety and total distance travelled. They would also be much cheaper and quicker to implement and would avoid some of the issues that my right hon. Friend raised.

So what does TfL or Lambeth get out of abolishing the bus station? The proposal seems to be linked to the huge developments at Nine Elms and plans for the Northern line extension to Battersea and Nine Elms. Lambeth used the opportunity of the Northern line extension to negotiate a deal with TfL which culminated in an agreement about Vauxhall’s redevelopment in November 2013. Lots of discussions have been going on about that.

TfL is a landowner in the area. The consultation does not include any new commercial development over and above what is needed to support the transport interchange. If any further development is proposed in the future, it would be subject to planning permission. That is what TfL says. Londoners, including local residents, are being asked to accept a pig in a poke—“Agree to the plans to demolish the bus station and then we’ll show you what our plans involve.” TfL wants to get rid of this fine facility just to free up the land for some unspecified private development.

What do bus passengers get out of Transport for London’s plan? What is being proposed is not a new bus station. That is perhaps the most shocking part of the whole exercise. There will be bus stops on pavements in four separate locations. Half the buses will stop at the side of heavily used main roads—Wandsworth Road and Kennington Lane. There is to be a huge high-rise development between some of those stops and the others near Bondway. Changing buses will be less straightforward, especially for those with mobility problems. There will be less space to wait in. Passengers will be waiting on crowded roadside pavements which will be less safe, more polluted and with less shelter, even in the planned new central area. The present canopy is very good because it extends over the roadside as well as the waiting area, so passengers do not get wet as they get on to the bus.

There is a feeling of safety in that station. Yes, we could make it greener and make other improvements, but it certainly does not need to be knocked down. The most important aspect is that Lambeth and TfL have not played fair in their consultation. At no stage has the option of retaining the bus station in its current form

6 Jan 2016 : Column 407

been put to residents or anyone else. Indeed, in January 2014 a motion to include an option to retain the status quo was explicitly rejected in an amendment moved by the leader of the council.

The community’s solution for Vauxhall shows that it is possible to retain the existing bus station structure by modifying certain entrances and exits and to get rid of the gyratory system. If the current plans for Vauxhall go ahead, the Minister must know that the second busiest bus station in London will be turned into a building site for several years, with a reduction in bus services and unacceptable disruption for all passengers. The consultation period on the plans began in December and is due to end on 17 January. We have repeatedly asked for that to be extended because it covered the Christmas holiday period and was deliberately set up to confuse people. Arranging meetings was very difficult. There is some sharp practice here, I believe.

On the maps that have been produced, interestingly, all the symbols denoting the bus stops have been placed as far apart as possible on the maps of the existing area, and as close together as possible on the proposed plan. The maps do not show accurately what will be there and how bad it will be. TfL has sent out emails to those on its Oyster card database, but that database does not include freedom pass holders, pensioners and the elderly, who we know are heavy users of the station.

At the recent public meeting people were very angry with TfL because they felt they were being—I know that I cannot use the expression “lied to”, but whatever the equivalent parliamentary term is, they felt that.

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady is perfectly entitled to accuse people outside the House of lying. She cannot accuse someone in the House of lying. So she was in order, even if she did not know she was.

Kate Hoey: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am very pleased to say that and I will do so because people felt that very strongly.

TfL said that it was trying to get the consultation on the plans “out of the way” by March—that means before the mayoral elections, as public bodies will enter a period of purdah in March. It has refused to extend the deadline and there has been no wider consultation in the area of Waterloo, Westminster or Southwark. Today the first meeting was held in Wandsworth in the Clapham library near Clapham Junction, and I understand that one person turned up in the first half hour.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that the current bus station is a splendid example of what is rarely achieved in urban planning—an integrated transport system where the buses are above the trains? It is also a fine iconic building.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): My hon. Friend is right. How can everybody’s attitude to it have changed so much in a short space of time, especially now it has been used?

I could quote all sorts of users who say how good it is, how much better than in the past, and how angry they are. For example, there are the users who go to St Thomas’ hospital. People from right across south London attending appointments there tend to use it, because

6 Jan 2016 : Column 408

south London does not have the network of tubes that other parts of London have. At present they can do that straightforwardly, all on one level and under cover. We should try to imagine what it must be like having to cross roads and pass through a multi-storey block to change buses, with a sick child in a buggy or on crutches. All these things have genuinely not been looked at. I believe that TfL is letting down bus users, including by reducing the area available.

The bus station is on the border of Wandsworth, Westminster and Lambeth. A lot of children change buses there in the morning to go to school, and their situation has not been looked at. No one has been properly consulted. From our experience so far with the plans and the way the gyratory has been looked at, we genuinely do not think that TfL can be trusted to do the best, because it is not doing this for the right reasons.

I ask the Minister to intervene right away with his colleagues in City Hall, the current Mayor of London and TfL to halt what I call a sham consultation. It is something that will affect transport users across London, and indeed outside London, which is why it is not just a local London issue. This should not be railroaded through.

It is going to fall to the next Mayor to implement whatever is decided, and I think the next Mayor and the mayoral candidates should have a part to play in reviewing what TfL is planning. We want them to be involved in this even leading up to the mayoral elections.

The consultation should be started properly, and it should start with one simple question: “Do you want to retain the bus station?” That has never been asked. No one has had a chance to answer that. This has all been smoke and mirrors.

The bus station should not be demolished, even if this is gone ahead with, before there are the new owners of the island site, which has been put up for sale again, and before TfL has published its plans of what it wants to do with it. This is irresponsible; this uncertainty should not be allowed.

There is absolutely no certainty, and no reason has been given as to why the bus station has to be demolished, other than we know somewhere there is money involved and there is obviously interest in land and development and future plans. Well, the people of Vauxhall and the general area, including Wandsworth, are sick, sore and tired of developers coming in and making huge developments which end up doing very little for people who cannot afford those properties and are on a long waiting list. It would be an irresponsible waste of public money to knock down something that works.

Will the Minister get the Minister for London—who obviously is not in his place so he cannot respond tonight—to come and visit in the next two weeks, before 17 January? I want him to get the period extended, and then to visit and meet the people who have done so much work on a voluntary basis to get this campaign out there in the country.

This is being pushed through by smoke and mirrors. All the people who use the station—from outside London and all over London—will be horrified when they discover what is being suggested. I am suggesting the Minister should get involved now—should come along and talk to people and learn what an irresponsible waste of public money this would be. The bus station is entirely

6 Jan 2016 : Column 409

functional, and appreciated by its users from all over London, and especially by the residents of Vauxhall who remember the time before it was built.

I want to end by saying that I wrote to Leon Daniels, managing director of Surface Transport, in November—I have been involved with him many times over different things—and said:

“When is someone like you going to stand up for bus users?”

He wrote back:

“I am! I have called a halt to new schemes which materially disadvantage bus passengers. Poorer reliability and slower journey times are affecting bus passengers negatively as is worsened interchange when stops are moved to less convenient places. I am now sending back such proposals with a clear message that permanent material worsening is not acceptable.”

That was what Leon Daniels said on 6 November 2015, yet TfL has not stopped the consultation and sent it back. Mike Brown, the new head of TfL, should take a lesson from the now much missed Peter Hendy, who was involved when the bus station was built and said things that were proved right about how important it was.

Thank you for the opportunity to raise this issue, Mr Speaker. I hope that the Minister will take it seriously, because it is not just a little local issue. It concerns Londoners, and it will concern more than just Londoners when it gets out into the public domain. We need proper, genuine consultation. We can have changes and get rid of the gyratory, but we have to keep the bus station. The Minister must not allow us to go back to the situation before it was built.

7.35 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I congratulate the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) on securing this debate about the effect on London and its transport network of the proposed demolition of Vauxhall bus station. It follows a slightly more convivial debate that we had on the same subject last night in a different location in the building.

This debate is particularly timely, because Transport for London’s consultation on its proposals is open for another 10 days or so. If anyone has been misled during the process, I am sure the hon. Lady has clarified matters. I will ensure that a transcript of her comments and of the whole debate is sent to those she mentioned.

Transport is London’s lifeblood, and London’s transport is critical to the rest of the UK. We know that London contributes about 20% of the UK’s GDP, and that its population is set to grow to 9 million by 2020 and 10 million by 2030. We all understand the need for continued investment in transport infrastructure to allow London and the rest of the UK to continue to prosper. I do not need to tell hon. Members that transport in London is much improved from just a few years ago. We have better bus services, Boris bikes and transformational tube modernisation.

I turn now to London buses in particular. There are at least 6.5 million journeys a day on the London bus network, compared with 4 million on the tube. That amounts to 2.4 billion journeys a year on the London bus network, which is more than half of all bus journeys

6 Jan 2016 : Column 410

made in England. I am proud that some of the buses are manufactured in Scarborough in my constituency, and some Members in the Chamber will know that a number are manufactured in Ulster. I will not comment on which might be the better buses.

Vauxhall bus station is owned and maintained by Transport for London and is, as the hon. Member for Vauxhall said, the second busiest in London after Victoria. As she will be aware, in 2013 her comrades on Lambeth Council and TfL announced plans to demolish the bus station to build a new high street as part of Vauxhall’s regeneration plans. Those plans include redesigning the transport interchange, including a new central bus station. TfL’s plans also include providing more cycle and pedestrian crossings, providing segregated lanes and parking for cyclists, and improving existing public spaces and providing new ones. As a cyclist myself, when I was down there last week I had a look at how difficult the area currently is for cyclists, despite the fact that we have a new cycle superhighway into the area.

TfL ran an initial consultation on its proposals in 2014 and is currently running a further public consultation on detailed design proposals. It received more than 2,000 responses to the initial consultation, with the majority supporting the proposals.

Kate Hoey: Will the Minister give way on that point?

Mr Goodwill: By all means. I thought the hon. Lady might want to intervene.

Kate Hoey: The Minister must understand that in that consultation no one was asked whether they wanted to see the bus station removed.

Mr Goodwill: I am aware that that is the hon. Lady’s view. I have not looked at the consultation in detail, but I hope that her making these points will help her constituents respond in the time available. I encourage them to take part in TfL’s consultation and express their views before it closes on 17 January. I understand that TfL has hosted several drop-in sessions to discuss the consultation with local parties in detail—there is one tomorrow night. I encourage her constituents to attend those sessions.

The proposed changes to the bus station are an integral part of TfL’s wider plans to transform the wider Vauxhall Cross area. In turn, that is part of TfL’s £4 billion road modernisation programme, which is the biggest investment in London’s roads for a generation and which, among other things, aims to make London more cycle-friendly. The road modernisation programme consists of hundreds of projects to transform junctions, bridges, tunnels and pedestrian areas. The Government’s financial support to TfL has helped to enable it to deliver that programme, the tube modernisation programme and all other investment in London’s transport infrastructure.

For many years, Vauxhall Cross has been heavily dominated by motor vehicles. The gyratory system can be difficult to navigate and the area is very unwelcoming to pedestrians. The existing pedestrian crossings do not always follow the most direct or popular routes, which can lead, as I have observed, to pedestrians crossing

6 Jan 2016 : Column 411

roads away from crossings. That leads to a large number of collisions involving injury to pedestrians and cyclists in London.

The overall aim of the proposals is to create a thriving, more pleasant and safer public space, with better facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and bus users alike. I should like to assure the hon. Lady that improving the area for bus users is a top priority for the Mayor and for Vauxhall’s town regeneration scheme. Redesigning the transport interchange will bring benefits for not only bus users but cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles.

A new bus station will benefit bus users in a number of ways. It would be fully integrated with the new pedestrianised square and two-way road system, and would have facilities including public toilets, seating, information displays and maps, and an information kiosk. All that would mean a safer and easier interchange at the centre of Vauxhall.

TfL will ensure that bus passengers are inconvenienced as little as possible. Temporary bus stop locations will be incorporated in the construction phasing plan and consideration will be given to the ease of interchange for users, minimising alterations. The stop locations and any changes to routes will be fully communicated to all bus passengers with clear signage on site.

The hon. Lady mentioned her concern that TfL’s proposals, particularly the removal of the distinctive ski-jump canopy, will mean that bus passengers have less shelter from the weather than they do today. I understand from TfL that its proposals include a new canopy in the main bus station, with a contemporary look and feel to it, that will provide shelter from the rain.

Kate Hoey: I know the Minister has the TfL briefing, but if he knew as much about TfL as we do, he would not believe it. The briefing is wrong. The proposed canopy will not go over everywhere—it will be like little bus stop covers that he can find at any bus stop. The proposal is not for a bus station or interchange, but for a hotch-potch of bus stops put together.

Mr Goodwill: I hear what the hon. Lady says. There will also be canopies providing shelter between the different parts of the new bus station. I should like to assure her that the canopies have been designed to provide a better level of weather protection than the current canopy. As the current canopy is so high, when it is a windy day, the rain can blow under it. I have observed that when I have been in the area.

The design of the bus station may be iconic, but it is certainly not universally popular. I understand that it won a certificate of merit in the structural steel design awards in 2006 in recognition of its high standards of structural and architectural design, with the judges noting that

“the bus station elegantly gathers together all the elements of public transport within an overall umbrella surface which weaves its way overhead”.

In my view, however—a view that I think will be shared by the Prince of Wales—winning an architectural design

6 Jan 2016 : Column 412

award is not always a guarantee of long-term popularity for a structure. Although I would not go so far as to describe the current bus station as a “monstrous carbuncle”, I am prepared to say that I am not the biggest fan of the current design, but that is personal taste. Having seen artists’ impressions of the proposed bus station, I would argue that it is much more pleasing to the eye than the current one.

Paul Flynn: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to call in aid members of the royal family? I understood that it was forbidden under our house rules.

Mr Speaker: Ministers should certainly tread with great care in such territory. I think that the Minister was referring to a known public statement of the Prince of Wales, but I am sure that he was not seeking to invoke his support with reference to the future of the Vauxhall bus station. I am sure that he will disavow any such intention immediately.

Mr Goodwill: Absolutely, Mr Speaker. Indeed, if one hears the word “carbuncle”, there can be only one name that comes to mind.

It might be helpful to the hon. Member for Vauxhall if I explain what TFL plans to do following the consultation. TFL has told me that it will publish a report on the results and analysis of responses in spring 2016. It plans to start construction in 2018, and it is also its firm intention that a bus station will remain in some form throughout the entire construction period.

The spending review settlement shows that we recognise that London is a city on the move. The capital’s economy is moving emphatically in the right direction, and our support is helping to transform London’s transport network. I am proud to be part of that transformation, together with all our partners, including TFL, although I understand that the hon. Lady is not its biggest fan. The investment we are making for the next five years will not just keep London mobile but equip the city for the challenges of the future, to compete and win in the 21st century global economy.

Kate Hoey: Will the Minister come and visit, with the Minister responsible for London, to meet the people who understand the issue much more than some of the experts at TFL?

Mr Goodwill: I will certainly extend the hon. Lady’s invitation to my noble friend Lord Ahmad, who covers this area in the Department. I am sure that he will consider it carefully.

TFL’s plans for Vauxhall bus station are an important part of its wider road modernisation programme and I strongly encourage all interested parties to let TFL have their views on the proposals before the consultation closes on 17 January.

Question put and agreed to.

7.46 pm

House adjourned.